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Take the Risk Out of Children Flying Alone

How to prepare and micro-manage every aspect
of the trip to make it smooth, easy and safe

"Parents know that sending a child unaccompanied on an airplane involves the risk of the child getting lost," says former flight attendant and airline-safety author Diana Fairechild.

Fairechild's research has "uncovered many incidents of what the airlines call 'misplaced minors.' One example is a 7-year-old, booked to fly from San Francisco to Southern California, who wound up in New York."

An additional uncertainty is "the horror of being assigned an abusive seatmate," warns Fairechild, alluding to a new policy now endorsed by some airlines which denies male passengers a seat next to a child if both are flying alone.

Though critics of this new airline policy say it is an example of political correctness gone amuck, Fairechild quotes a saying known to all airline insiders: "No regulation in aviation takes effect without somebody's blood on it." She adds, "It indicates here that the existence of abusive seatmates is now severe enough for the airlines to acknowledge it."

UM - Unaccompanied Minors

The airlines refer to children flying solo as "unaccompanied minors"(UM). UMs are between ages 5 and 11 or 14 (depending on the airline).

"There is a misconception that the airlines will provide a baby-sitting service for UMs," says Fairechild. "What they provide is simply an airline employee escort from the ticket counter or departure gate to the child's seat on board and, at the arrival airport, another escort off the plane to the adult picking them up."

For this service, children are charged the full adult price for the ticket (not the discount they are entitled to when traveling with adults) plus a surcharge that can be as much as $100 each way depending on the length of the flight and if there are connecting flights.

Safeguarding UMs

To reduce parental anxiety when relinquishing a child to an airline, Fairechild has developed some excellent strategies for parents and children.

1. Creating extended families. While waiting on line to check in, if you see families, ask if they are on the same flight and introduce your child.

2. Strategic seating. Request a seat close to the galley so flight attendants are always within view.

  • Do not choose a seat in a front row where there is no under-seat storage for the child's carry-on, which needs to remain handy throughout the flight rather than inaccessibly stowed in an overhead bin.

  • Ask for a window seat because the view is awesome.

3. Child's carry-on. Keep it light. Essentials to include:

  • Child's photo ID and medical history.

  • Cell phone for the child and your contact information.

  • Picture of the person meeting the child with their name and phone number on the back.

  • Some snacks.

  • Games for the flight.

  • A surprise.

  • A quick note saying hello and "I Love YOU!".

About the Author...

also see -> Tips for Family Holiday Road Trips


More about kids solo travel around the Web:

Top 10 Safety Tips for Children Traveling Alone

Children and Airplane Safety


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